Daily Digest: April 14, 2021
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it many times again: When it comes to news, context is important.
One of the big headlines yesterday involved the federal government’s decision to “pause” the use of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, due to some instances of a rare type of blood clot. At first, that news sounds kinda scary, right? I received the J&J vaccine, and this was not the type of news I wanted to wake up to on a Tuesday.
But now let’s add a little more context, compliments of a New York Times follow-up today:
The emergency meeting followed the Food and Drug Administration’s announcement on Tuesday that it was studying six cases of rare and severe blood clots in women aged 18 to 48, one of whom died. All of the women had received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine before developing the clots, though it is unclear whether the vaccine is responsible. As of Tuesday, more than seven million people in the United States have received the shot, and another 10 million doses have been shipped out to the states, according to C.D.C. data.
So … out of more than 7 million people that have gotten the shot, there have been six known cases of this. Just six. Needless to say, I felt a little better about things.
But then I started wondering … why in the world would the government pause the use of the vaccine when the odds of developing such a clot, if the vaccine is indeed responsible, are literally less than one in a million?
A similar rare problem of blood clotting with low platelets in the cerebral venous sinus and also in the abdominal veins and arteries has been seen in connection with the use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine used in Europe. There, 182 cases were reported in 190 million doses—again, roughly 1 in 1 million people vaccinated.
OK. so now the pause—which will be for at least a week—makes a little more sense .. but again, we’re still talking about one case per million.
Now let’s add a little more context: A piece from NBC News points out that the pause will allow word to get out to doctors about how to treat these clots, should more pop up:
During a media briefing earlier Wednesday, (CDC Director Rochelle) Walensky urged health care providers to be on alert for such problems, which require alternative treatments from usual blood clots. “It is imperative for health care workers to know that the treatment of these clots is different than our current standard of care,” which is a common blood thinner called heparin, she said.
Yes, there are still concerns that this pause could increase vaccine hesitancy in some. An argument can be made that this pause may still not be a good move overall, when all the pros and cons are factored in. But when the context is added in—especially at a time when there are two other vaccines available that have not raised such concerns—the move makes way more sense, and is far less alarming, than one may have initially thought..
From the Independent
Know Your Neighbors: Meet Joanie Bayhack, a Former Media Executive With a Passion for Dance and Fitness
By Anita Rufus
April 14, 2021
Get to know Joanie Bayhack, a part-time Indian Wells resident who loves to volunteer and help people with fitness.
Caesar Cervisia: While IPAs Are a Craft-Beer Craze, Traditional British Pale Ales Deserve Some Love, Too
By Brett Newton
April 14, 2021
The history of the IPA is full of myths and simplifications—so here’s some truth.
Interstellar Inanity: Thanks to a Dumb Premise and Bad Writing, ‘Voyagers’ Is in the Running for Year’s Worst Movie
By Bob Grimm
April 13, 2021
The art direction of Voyagers is unimaginative, and the dialogue is unintentionally hilarious, adding to the mess made by the ridiculous premise.
And Now, the News
• Local COVID-19 numbers are no longer declining … but they’re holding steady. Those are the takeaways from these next two documents. First up is the latest Riverside County District 4 COVID-19 report. (District 4 = the Coachella Valley plus rural areas to the east.) For the week ending April 11, the local positivity rate was 2.2 percent, while hospitalizations for COVID-19 bounced between 10 and 16. But again, this disease is still out there, and it’s still awful: Three of our neighbors died due to the disease last week.
• Here’s the newest COVID-19 Palm Springs wastewater report. The levels of SARS-CoV-2 in the city’s wastewater samples were a wee bit higher on April 6 and 7 than they were the week before, and a wee bit lower than they were two weeks before. All in all, the numbers are holding pretty steady. Fingers crossed they remain steady—or, even better, decrease.
• FEMA is now taking applications from families who lost people due to COVID-19 for help with funeral expenses. CNN reports: “The agency launched on Monday a hotline—844-684-6333—to apply for up to $9,000 in assistance per burial. … Some $2 billion was allocated as part of the $900 billion relief deal Congress approved in December, while the Democrats’ $1.9 trillion package last month bolstered it by providing the agency with an additional $50 billion to use for coronavirus-related costs. The program’s debut was marked by busy signals and “technical issues,” the agency said Monday, noting it had received “thousands of calls” on its first day of operation. “We ask that applicants be patient as we work to correct these issues and have all their important documents ready when they call to apply,” FEMA said. “Please know there is no deadline to apply and applicants will have the ability to open a case.” (You can also find more info at the FEMA website.)
• President Biden today announced that he plans to have all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021. NPR says: “The withdrawal of U.S. troops represents the most consequential military decision that Biden has made since taking office, and will complete a process that began under the Obama administration, starting with a drawdown from a peak of more than 100,000 U.S. service members in the country in 2011. It’s a decision that makes good on a campaign pledge to end ‘forever wars,’ but carries significant political and national security risks if Afghanistan backslides into a haven for terrorists intent on attacking the United States, a concern raised even by Biden’s Democratic allies in Congress.”
• The New York Times looks at the massive toll COVID-19 has taken on the U.S. prison population. The piece notes that a whopping 34 out 100 inmates has gotten the disease. “America’s prisons, jails and detention centers have been among the nation’s most dangerous places when it comes to infections from the coronavirus. Over the past year, more than 1,400 new inmate infections and seven deaths, on average, have been reported inside those facilities each day.” Wow.
• Speaking of context news pieces … more and more pieces are being done about “breakthrough cases”—people who test positive for COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated. Well, MedPage Today looked over the news stories and crunched the numbers. The result? “While federal data on breakthrough COVID-19 infections following vaccination aren’t available, a handful of states and independent health systems have put forward their own analyses, and the findings are reassuring—the rates of breakthrough infections are as expected.” In other words, they’re pretty darned rare.
• A logjam at U.S. ports is contributing to supply-chain issues and shortages in the U.S. However, the ports are starting to catch up. According to The Wall Street Journal (subscription required to read the whole piece): “The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which together handle more than a third of all U.S. seaborne imports, saw their busiest March on record, handling a combined 898,287 loaded container imports, measured in 20-foot equivalent units, or TEUs. That was up 97.1% from the same month last year, when the COVID-driven shutdown of factories in China depressed shipping volumes, but also 65.1% ahead of the more normal March 2019 imports. The surge at the California ports is part of a broader deluge of imports that has hit U.S. ports as businesses restock inventories that were depleted early in the pandemic and to meet resurgent consumer demand.”
• Tangentially related: The price of lumber has gone through the figurative roof. Markets Insider says: “Spot lumber prices hit a record high of nearly $1,200 per thousand board feet on Tuesday. … The rising lumber costs have added more than $24,000 to the price of the average new single-family home, and nearly $9,000 to the price of a multifamily home in the past year alone, according to data from the National Association of Homebuilders…. A number of factors have combined to create the perfect storm for rising lumber prices over the past few years, starting in 2019 when weak demand and severe weather conditions caused timber suppliers to close mills and reduce output.”
• Regeneron, the maker of an antibody therapy for COVID-19—the one the former president received—is applying to the FDA for it to be used as a preventative treatment, following encouraging study results. According to CNBC: “Regeneron said it is seeking to expand the use of its treatment in the U.S. after a phase three clinical trial, jointly run by the National Institutes of Health, found the drug reduced the risk of symptomatic infections in individuals by 81%. The company also said people who were symptomatic and were treated with the drug resolved their symptoms, on average, two weeks faster than those who received a placebo. ‘With more than 60,000 Americans continuing to be diagnosed with COVID-19 every day, the REGEN-COV antibody cocktail may help provide immediate protection to unvaccinated people who are exposed to the virus,’ Dr. George Yancopoulos, president and chief scientific officer at Regeneron, said in a press release.”
• Our partners at CalMatters wonder why the state isn’t trying to collect some $2 million in fines from politicians who broke the rules: “California’s secretary of state’s office has failed to collect $2 million in fines owed by politicians, lobbyists and campaign donors who the office says filed disclosure reports late, a CalMatters analysis shows. It’s allowed some of the largest fines to languish for many years with no consequences to those who are supposed to pay up. The debts are owed by a range of political players, according to a list published on the secretary of state’s website that details outstanding fines as of April 1. It shows fines owed by 26 state lawmakers and 21 superior court judges, as well as former legislators, losing candidates, ballot measure campaigns, Democratic and Republican clubs and corporate and labor-backed political action committees. … (Some) 45 of the fines are more than $10,000, and some are for violations more than a decade ago—raising questions about whether California is effectively enforcing its campaign finance law that is meant to promote transparency and prevent corruption.”
• And finally … nature is indeed healing. The Wall Street Journal (subscription required to read the whole piece) reports: “After a year in which toilet-tissue shortages left consumers scrambling for squares, sales are plummeting to below pre-pandemic levels. Bath-tissue sales in January fell more than 4% from the same period a year earlier, before the spread of COVID-19 spurred Americans to load up on staples from toilet paper to sanitary wipes, according to figures from NielsenIQ. The decline, which comes even though legions of Americans continue to work and attend school from home, indicates last year’s stockpiling is starting to have an effect on sales.”
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